Highschool & Up
S. Leigh Hall
1st place winner of the 2017 Catholic Press Association Teen and YA Book award
Bad boy Jarret West is a difficult character to like. He is complex, and what I would call a psychologist’s dream in that he takes risks, acts out, craves attention, and is extremely cruel to his younger brother Roland. He manipulates others, is always thinking only of himself and that to which he feels entitled. These attitudes and situations make him vulnerable to the whispered suggestions of the demon Deth-kye, whose purpose is to damn Jarret’s soul to Hell.
The other side of Jarret is wounded and tormented with the heartbreak of losing his mother. He also feels abandoned and betrayed by his twin brother, Keefe, who has experienced a mystical reversion to the Catholic faith and will no longer allow himself to be controlled by Jarret.
Theresa Linden’s books in the West Brothers series relate well to the culture of today’s teens but also capture the supernatural world surrounding them and all of us. That gift is even more apparent in the third book, where angels gain strength through the prayers and faithful behaviors of those they protect. Demons also gather strength through opposing actions. Ultimately, the questions are: who will win the battle for Jarret’s soul? Will it be the demons surrounding him or his guardian angel sent by God to protect him?
The boys’ father, Ignatius West returns to his childhood home in Arizona to visit old friends and to appraise the value of the antiques on the ranch. At first, only younger brother Roland is expected to accompany him. At the last minute, so does Jarret – anything to get away from his twin, though he also doesn’t care much for Roland whom he believes is his father’s favorite son.
While the West family in Arizona reacquaint themselves with relatives and friends, temptations continue to entice Jarret. He smokes, drinks, and begins to experiment with drugs. He regularly bullies Roland in cruel and destructive ways.
Meanwhile, in their hometown, the other remarkable characters in Linden’s series form a prayer group at the request of Caitlyn. Keefe, the West brother who stays behind, joins the prayer group and prays for Jarret. He learns of a group of Franciscan Friars staying at a neighborhood Bed and Breakfast and becomes so intrigued by them that he climbs a tree during one of their meetings to hear what they are saying. The tree limb breaks, and he falls into their gathering. Now he wonders if he is being called to join them.
I immediately thought of the story of Zacchaeus in the Gospels, who climbed the tree to see Jesus. I also related the jealousy of Jarret toward Roland with the Genesis story of Cain and Abel. Then there is the symbolism of good and evil as recognized in the twins.
The climax of the book occurs when Jarret places Roland in a life or death situation. As Roland lies at the bottom of a ravine with a broken leg, Jarret spits out all of the evil tricks he played on his brother from the very beginning of his life. It is a weird reverse confession as Jarret contemplates finally killing his brother.
A genuine battle takes place around them as angels and demons clash for Jarret’s soul until Roland looks at his brother and says, “I forgive you.”
Linden’s books get better and better as her characters and literary themes become more real and complex. She doesn’t miss a beat in continuing a saga that makes sense and builds from story to story. The characters remain faithful to themselves even as they grow older. If you haven’t read the earlier books, it won’t hurt your understanding of Battle for His Soul, but the characters are a great group of young people easily relatable to current times and teens, and the earlier books make good reading material.
Her audience is teenagers, but even as an adult, I find myself completely engaged in the series. Though she writes with a Catholic Christian perspective, Linden’s books are universally exciting and thought-provoking.
Subscribe to Catholic Reads to get access to Catholic Literature from 50% off to FREE